Friday, June 21, 2013

First Page Friday

I'm so glad it's Friday.  I look forward to seeing the First Page Friday segment every week.  Today we're talking a bit about inner dialogue and strong openings.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

If you would like your first page critiqued by a national editor, submit your double-spaced, 12 pt. font first page in a Word document to  We have openings in July!

Thank you so much to Alison and Ms. Shreditor for their time and effort.  It is greatly appreciated.  See you next week!

The Entry
The Agreement
by Alison Love

Church was just letting out. Here are there you could see children chasing each other down the sidewalk, sometimes dragging an older sibling along. The brilliant sun beat down on parents and children alike as they chatted outside with friends. It was a happy scene to behold, with one exception.

In the shade of an oak tree a boy sat sullenly in a parked minivan. The doors were slid open in an attempt to catch a breeze. With arms crossed tightly and eyebrows drawn in anger; Bruce Beans was not happy. How could she? Why would she ever do this to him? What had he done to deserve this? Squinting up at the sky Bruce noticed a small grey cloud drift over. Bruce imagined filling the cloud with all his feelings of anger and frustration until it grew large enough to dominate the sky. He closed his eyes and willed the wind to blow. He could just see the gale force currents ripping through and sending down hail! Torrents of rain would flood down, soaking his mother…

“Boos!” a small voice called.

“Huh?!?” Bruce was shaken from his daydream . He had been concentrating so hard on his vision of meteorological terror that he hadn’t even noticed that he was not alone in the van anymore. Across from him Booker, his 3 year old brother had climbed into his car seat.

“Boos seep?” Booker asked.

“No, I wasn’t sleeping.” Bruce grumbled. “I just want to go home.”

Ms. Shreditor's Comments

The most effective part of the first paragraph is the last part of the last sentence. The author sets an idyllic scene and then dismantles it with just three words: “with one exception.” It’s a nice literary fake-out. However, I found myself distracted by the obvious error in the second sentence (“here are there”). There are a few proofreading errors on this page, mainly at the punctuation level, that should be addressed before submitting to an editor or agent.

There are some intriguing elements in play here. Bruce has been betrayed by his mother in some way, as evidenced by his internal monologue in the second paragraph. Be careful with italicized inner thoughts; these should be phrased exactly as they would occur in the person’s head. You generally want to avoid third-person perspective and the past perfect tense. Bruce would likely think, How could she do this to me? What did I do to deserve this?

The reader can sense Bruce’s pain as he fantasizes about channeling his pain into the cloud so that it expands and then rains down upon the person who has betrayed him. It’s poignant. My only caveat here would be to avoid exclamation points in descriptive text. For the most part, there should be enough cues in a non-dialogue sentence to convey urgency without the exclamation point. I’d generally advise saving the exclamation points for dialogue—and, even then, I’d recommend using them sparingly.

There are some clues on this first page that indicate where this might be going. I imagine the story will zero in on Bruce’s conflict with his mother. The reader is left wondering what happened between them to make Bruce so angry, which is the right kind of question to be asking after a first page—a page-turning question. My instinct, however, is that this first page would be better served if the inner thoughts moved to the beginning. Church letting out doesn’t seem like a strong enough opening detail, but Bruce’s anger at his mother does. Making this move would necessitate some reworking of the first page, but I think it would go a long way in fortifying the opening and snaring reader interest right off the bat.


alison said...

Thank you so much Ms. Shreditor for your time and comments. I admit, exclamation points are an obsession for me.

Debra Erfert said...

I know what happened. Bruce's mother told him no to something. I've seen that sulk before on my sons' faces. haha!

I was thrown a little after the first paragraph. If we're seeing through Bruce's eyes, his downcast attitude wouldn't appreciate the happy setting outside the van. That seems like an omnipresent POV, until the second paragraph when it drifts into Bruce's perspective.

Alison, you aren't the only writer who loves exclamation points. I do too! With a passion!

Holly Vance said...

I am just sitting down to revise my first chapter--a page is coming your way! So excited.